Local organizations that help provide housing for new immigrant families in Champaign-Urbana are seeing an increase in need.
The C-U Immigration Forum is a local group that discusses the concerns of immigrants in Champaign County.
The group hosted an online forum this week, inviting different organizations for a conversation on the housing shortage in Champaign-Urbana, and how it can impact new immigrant families.
“Informing each other is a great byproduct of a meeting such as this,” said Forum board member Ricardo Diaz. “Finding out what’s going on currently, not only in data but also in projects is the next learning (step).”
The Cunningham Township supervisor’s office in Urbana helps people find housing and participated in the discussion.
Supervisor Danielle Chynoweth said her office has had five requests for housing assistance since the beginning of the township’s fiscal year last July.
“Because they’re not able to access vouchers, which are the primary successful exit strategy from emergency housing, it makes it difficult to know what the strategy is for permanent housing for immigrants who may be experiencing homelessness,” Chynoweth said.
According to Chynoweth, while they worked with others, no immigrant families reached out to her office during the previous fiscal year of 2022.
Diaz said one of the barriers that immigrant families experience when trying to obtain housing is the leasing cycle used by many landlords in C-U.
“There are lots of apartment complexes, and soon they realized that a lot of them are focused on student housing,” said Diaz. “Their contracts are, you know, start going out in May, and by August they’ll be filled. And that’s not just the high end.”
Chynoweth adds that immigrant families also experience employment and discrimination issues.
“In situations where there isn’t a legal pathway to work, it makes it very difficult for those immigrant families to have steady work, reliable work and be able to access be able to prove that work and income to a landlord, and then be able to access housing,” Chynoweth said.
She said she hopes the forum will serve as a starting point to create better strategies for helping families access housing.